Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

4 Reasons to Play Gone Home in the Classroom

You’ve returned from a year abroad to your family’s new house in the Pacific Northwest. There’s no one to meet you at the airport, and when you finally find the hidden key into the house–there’s no one home. Slowly, you find your way through this old house that once belonged to your strange uncle, but there’s no sign of your parents or sister.

What you do find are televisions left on, boxes of your family’s belongings, and dozens of clues for you to piece together the story of where your family had gone.

Welcome home. Gone Home, that is.

Debuting in 2013, Gone Home gained acclaim for its story development as a digital narrative set in the late 1990s. Players attempt to solve the disappearance of Katie’s family by examining artifacts such as journal entries, business letters, and newspaper articles while experiencing the ominous feel that we’ve all felt of being alone in an unfamiliar place at night.

English teacher Paul Darvasi recognized the potential of using Gone Home as a digital text and used it to teach close reading, literary devices such as allusion and mood, and writing critical narratives. (Read more about Paul’s unit here.) And now, he’s sharing his experience by helping lead a Gone Home game study on Participate! Paul and fellow teacher-gamer Jon Spike lead the discussion board and join in Thursday afternoon Twitch streams, where Mike Washburn and Steve Isaacs try their hand at the game.

Still not sure whether the game is right for your classroom? Here are four reasons why Gone Home is the next great text for your curriculum.

1. Teaching inferences and conclusions. The game is filled with texts for students to read, and every text contains some clue or background that helps you solve the mystery. It’s impossible to play the game and not make inferences! Also, reading goes beyond textual analysis; the game contains many visual and audio clues that players have to consider when solving the mystery.

2. Students need to read multi-media texts. Face it–our world is changing, and the need for students to be proficient digital readers grows every year. More than ever, this generation needs to critically “read” photographs, videos, audio, social media posts, memes, movies, video games–the list is endless and becoming longer. Gone Home is an experience that allows students to use their literacy skills to critically analyze and evaluate Gone Home both as a narrative and as a video game.

3. Promotes LBGTQ stories. Not only is Gone Home a mystery, but it also includes an LBGTQ storyline, which is a huge bonus given the dearth of LBGTQ texts currently on our classroom bookshelves. While there has been some growth in LBGTQ stories in recent years, we need to continue providing more texts like these for our students.

4. Encourages academic conversation. As students play, either side-by-side or in small groups on a single device, conversation naturally grows. At first, group dialogue focuses on how to get into the house and where to go next, but as students examine the artifacts, they become detectives. They analyze and debate about what texts mean, and they reread documents to make sure they’ve gleaned every important detail. Sometimes guiding students to have academic conversations can be tough, but these conversations evolve organically while playing Gone Home

No doubt there are more reasons to play Gone Home. Pop on over to the Gone Home game study discussion board with your comments and questions!



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